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Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Yachting NZ criticised over Olympic selections

New Zealand sailor Sara Winther.
New Zealand sailor Sara Winther.

The Sports Tribunal has heavily criticised Yachting New Zealand's handling of its Olympic selections following an appeal by two athletes over their non-nomination.

Sara Winther and Natalia Kosinska last month lodged an appeal with the Tribunal over their non-nominations in the Laser Radial and women's RS:X class respectively. The pair announced earlier this week their appeals had been unsuccessful, ending their bid for Rio.

While the Sports Tribunal ruled in favour of Yachting New Zealand (YNZ), the national body did not escape criticism in adjudicator Sir Bruce Robertson's full decision published today.

Sir Bruce raised concerns over YNZ's "lack of consultation, support, and communication with the athletes", but said the national body's failings did not meet the "high threshold to justify intervention" and overturning the selectors decisions.

Both Winther and Kosinska qualified their respective classes in the first round of qualification at the world championships in Santander in 2014. The pair have largely gone it alone since then, funding their own campaigns with little support or direction from the national body.

Heading into the final selection regatta in Hyeres, France in April, Winther said she had no idea what standard she needed to reach at the event to secure an Olympic nomination.
The Sports Tribunal described this lack of communication as "troubling".

"While the selection policy is drafted to provide huge discretion to YNZ, this does not obviate its obligations to abide by the rules of natural justice and to ensure basic fairness in its implementation. In particular, athletes in contention for nomination should be aware of what information they are being judged by and be given a reasonable opportunity to provide feedback on this," Sir Bruce wrote.

"I am not sure the athletes were given this opportunity or that the individual circumstances of the athletes in question and how they would perform at the Rio Olympics venue were adequately assessed in arriving at their decisions."

The Sports Tribunal considered whether to set aside the decisions and require the selectors to comprehensively assess the personal circumstances of each sailor in more detail.

However, Sir Bruce said having carefully weighed all the information presented, he concluded that realistically this would not lead to a different outcome.

Sir Bruce also rejected the argument put forward by Aaron Lloyd, who represented the two sailors, that the nomination decisions were affected by either apparent or actual bias. He said there was no evidence to suggest the selectors were incapable of making a independent and objective decision.

"Considering all the information now available I concluded there was a clear and adequate foundation for the selectors' decision."

- NZ Herald

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